Sharjah Art Biennale 14: Leaving the Echo Chamber, Sharjah, UAE, 7 March — 10 June, 2019


Open from 7 March – 10 June 2019, Sharjah Biennial 14 (SB14) will showcase three unique exhibitions, curated by Zoe Butt, Omar Kholeif and Claire Tancons.

SB14: Leaving the Echo Chamber
In popular culture, the ‘echo chamber’ is a moniker for circuitous news media and their attendant feeds, which are reinforced by a closed network controlled and governed by private sources, governments and corporations. It is also a metaphor for the historical dominance of capital and the cultural, social and political systems that dictate its access, production and distribution—this ‘capital’ wooing (and thus privileging) particular images, languages, skills, histories and geographies. Most tangibly, the ‘echo chamber’ is the space wherein sound hits and reverberates, where memory and imagination echo across surface, across space and across time. 

Leaving the Echo Chamber does not propose a ‘how to leave’ this context, but rather seeks to put into conversation a series of provocations on how one might renegotiate the shape, form and function of this chamber in order to move towards a multiplying of the echoes within, such vibrations representing the vast forms of human 
production—its rituals, beliefs and customs. The fourteenth edition of Sharjah Biennial begs the viewer to consider a number of concerns. What does it mean to demand alternate images at a time when news is spoon-fed to us by a monopoly of sources? How do we expand our narratives by acknowledging what has been hidden or removed? How can we reflect on our own culturally located histories in an era when so many individuals have been forced to believe that they must surrender their own agency to the mainstream forces that exist and govern our world?

The echo chamber could be construed as a modern-day Faraday cage—an enclosure that covers conductive material and prevents the transmission of signals. At Sharjah Biennial 14, artists are given the agency to tell stories that echo in different ways, thus creating new surfaces for a multiplicity of chambers that reveal numerous and multifaceted means of connecting, surviving and sustaining a collective humanity.

Leaving the Echo Chamber- Journey Beyond the Arrow
Curated by 
Zoe Butt
Journey Beyond the Arrow offers deeper context to the movement of humanity and the tools that have enabled or hindered its survival. From spiritual ritual to cultural custom, technological process to rule of law, all such practices employ objects and actions that continually move in voluntary and involuntary patterns of discovery, conquest, witness and exile across land and sea. 

However, the human journey surrounding the movement of these tools—its cause and effects, its feedback, its ‘echo’—clamors for collective sense amidst textbooks of little historical truth, online archives that are questionably fabricated and governmentally surveilled, and bureaucracies of academic systems of research and rigor that struggle to keep up with the pace of change in their assumed ‘D’isciplines.

In this exhibition, artists reveal the intergenerational impact of a range of physical and psychological ‘tools’, of how the representations and meanings of these tools have shifted as a consequence of colonial exploitation,social and religious conflict or ideological extremism. With their own distinctive approaches, the artists assembled here investigate the historical context of the ‘bow’, which reveals the ‘arrow’ of humanity’s echo—an echo of the diversity of all our activity in relation to language, memory, belief, ritual, and cultural and social practice. The artists’ imaginative retelling of our planet opens us up to what has been overlooked or lost in the echo chamber—a chamber that is economically intertwined yet governmentally divided, often culturally stymied by tradition and insidiously controlled by authoritarianism, a chamber that betrays us when we blindly participate in its algorithmic realm, which pursues quantity instead of meaning.

Journey Beyond the Arrow seeks to illuminate the necessity of exchange and diversity across the globe and throughout human history.